on May 31, 2008
I just finished reading Jeri's book, "Schizophrenic Christianity". I found the book to be well written. I believe most pastor's and Christians would say that it was a book and issue that needs to be written and addressed.
I did not find it as a wild-eyed attack against fundamentalism, for several times Jeri stated there were good fundamentalist churches, though clearly in her view not the best form of church government or approach.
I appreciated her taking the time to define her terms. This is very important in dealing with a subject like this. I also fear that many radical fundamentalist will not like this book, as it may hit too close to home.
I certainly differ with Jeri on some doctrinal issues, being a SBC pastor, that might go without saying. I do believe she down plays the place of the local church too much in an effort to support the NT clear teaching of a "universal" church. There are some of us who hold both. I agree that the NT clearly teaches a plurality of elders...that is the form of government in the church I pastor.
Being a pre-mil dispy, I may not have liked or agreed with her statements concerning the same; although I know this was not the point of the book. I too am ashamed sometimes at what comes out of my camp...but I still feel it is the most biblically consistant...even with our nuts.
Bottom line is that any system that has little to no accountablity ,while not making abusers, certainly provides a place for them to exist and gain power.
Finally, I appreciated the appendix about the Free Church of North America (Free Presbyterian) in the book. It further illustrates my contention that ultimately it is not the system that brings corruption, but men's hearts within any system. This is not to say that some systems are not better than others.
While Jeri and I disagree on several things, I want to thank her for this book. I would recommend others to read it. It never hurts for us to look at ourselves and remember our loyalty and call is to Christ alone.
Pastor Tony Pierce
on May 11, 2008
The book Schizophrenic Christianity has received an incredible amount of attention on fundamentalist message boards. The question raised over and over again, is that of 'is her book merely an opportunity to bash fundamentalism, and to blame fundamentalism for the problem of child molesters in fundamentalist churches?' The answer to this is a resounding "No."
Jeri Massi captures your attention in the first chapter, by dealing with the subject of Dave Hyles, a former pastor and a habitual predator. Dave Hyles is the son of the late Jack Hyles, who was a well-known fundamentalist pastor, and once the pastor of the largest Sunday School in America. Dave Hyles has left a trail of destruction through the churches that he has attended and pastored. Jeri gives evidence that makes one pause and wonder how such a man could be given such free reign in churches with so many allegations(some with proof) that surrounded him.
Having given us two examples of gross immorality occurring in the pulpits of fundamentalist churches(the first of Dave Hyles, and following with Joe Combs-a monster who kidnapped, raped, and severely abused a young girl over a period of many years), Jeri moves on to painting us a picture of how this is able to happen. As Jeri states on pages 36-37 of her book: "Intervening is not part of Independent Fundamental Baptists(IFB). Their goal is to separate, exit, and leave the scene. IFB pastors will get behind the pulpit and call down fire on the pedophiles in the Roman Catholic priesthood...But when those same sins appear in IFB churches...no IFB pastor moves to protect Christendom." And Jeri is right. It is rare that a fundamentalist pastor will name the names of pedophile IFB pastors from their pulpit. Men like Bob Gray, Dave Hyles, and others are discussed in the abstract on internet message boards by IFB pastors, but I personally have yet to see any sermon from an IFB pastor(particularly one of note) where men like Bob Gray(who confessed to french-kissing little girls prior to his death) are marked.
Having given us this sketch of fundamentalism, Jeri moves on to tell us why this occurs. Since fundamentalism is a deeply independent movement, there is an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality that is highly pervasive. Fundamentalists tend to think that if it doesn't happen in their church, it isn't their business, and their main responsibility is to merely stay separate. Jeri calls this "radical church autonomy." In one of the later chapters of the book, Jeri points out some problems with the concept of complete and total autonomy from every other church.
Jeri also points out that fundamentalism is replete with a faulty concept of loyalty. Loyalty to one's church and pastor is a highly valued ideal in fundamentalist churches. Some pastors(such as Jack Hyles) have taught a concept of loyalty that is so foreign to the Biblical ideal that it falls into the realm of cultish thinking. Jeri Massi provides us with quotes that demonstrate the eerie mindset that is cultivated in some circles of fundamentalism.
Jeri moves on to the frightening reality of sociopathic pastors within fundamentalist churches, a favorite feeding ground for such men. Men who prey on congregations that will give such a pastor the power he so desperately craves. Jeri demonstrates how issues such as radical autonomy and blind loyalty contribute to the type of church that attracts predators to the pulpit.
To be fair, not all fundamentalist churches completely embrace either blind loyalty, or radical autonomy, or any of the other points that the author brings up as being prevalent within fundamentalist churches. But a great many of them tend to have enough of these characteristics that can leave them open to predators. When a sheep fold has an opening in the wall, a good shepherd finds a way to close the wall in order to prevent predators from ravaging the sheep. The fact is though, many fundamentalist pastors would rather attack the messenger than discover a strategy to keep out predators.
It should be noted that Schizophrenic Christianity isn't just a book for how to deal with sexual predators, but will also help one identify a predator pastor who isn't a sexual predator. This book not only points out flaws found in fundamentalist churches, but it deals with these flaws Biblically. Jeri's writing is engaging, and keeps one thinking through the entire book. Is she on target or not? Does she make her case Biblically or not? Are her points regarding fundamentalism fair, or is she merely broad brushing a large portion of the fundamentalist movement?
While the book has many, many good points, as outlined above, there are also some negatives. Jeri does do a disservice to herself by broad brushing the movement in some areas, and by over exaggerating in others. For example, while complaining about a fundamentalist who was protesting the actor Chad Allen(a gay man) being permitted to play the part of a Christian missionary in the movie "The End of the Spear," Jeri states that if Chad Allen wanted avoid the scrutiny of fundamentalists into his sexual life that he should just become a fundamentalist pastor. She then moves on to state that becoming an IFB pastor is relatively easy through the entire movement, and that fundamentalists don't care enough to do thorough background checks and doctrinal checks into these men. In some areas of fundamentalism she may be right, but as an overview of the movement it would appear to be erroneous on it's face.
Another minor problem with the book, is that Jeri Massi carries a feud from the Fighting Fundamentalist Forums(talked about in the book) from the forum itself into the book. While some of her documentation for her book is taken from the forum, and reveals some interesting information(particularly regarding Dave Hyles and Pinellas Park Baptist Temple), her personal feud with Tim Lee is better left to the forum.
Overall, this book is an excellent purchase, and is highly recommended. The book gives an incredible amount of thought provoking material, which outweighs the negative and somewhat distracting material.
on April 28, 2008
"[SCHIZOPHRENIC CHRISTIANITY] successfully illuminates many aspects of this battle for clergy accountability and shows how Christian fundamentalism allows monstrous men to prey on the flock while still maintaining a mask of goodness. The book tells the real deal on "big bad Baptist business as usual," and Jeri tells it out of love for her faith.
She shows how, in this "business," the value of human life is traded off for the power and image of the religious leaders.
Using case studies of Independent Fundamental Baptist pastors accused or convicted of child molestation, the book reveals how pastors' young victims become nothing more than a cost of doing business for a religion gone horribly wrong.
The autonomous churches provide a porous structure that abandons accountability in favor of independence and immunity for the leaders. With no system for oversight, wolves are able to infiltrate with ease.
"If a man has charm and natural charisma, it's harder for a man to get a driver's license than to become an IFB preacher," explains Jeri.
At the same time, the highly authoritarian theology of Christian fundamentalism renders the sheep all the more trusting, submissive and vulnerable. They are effectively indoctrinated to become perfect prey.
With still more insights drawn from psychological research, Jeri points out that one of the defining characteristics of a sociopath is the strong desire for personal autonomy and control over others. What better place for a sociopath to achieve that end than in autonomous churches where pastors carry such prestige and authority that their words are not questioned and where systems of oversight are nonexistent?
It's a scary picture, but it's a picture that many of us have seen up close for ourselves. We know it to be true."
Taken from StopBaptistPredators blog, with the express permission of Christa Brown, founder of the Baptist arm of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Clergy Abuse.
on May 10, 2008
This book is a "must read" for all current and former independent, fundamental Baptists. It is long on facts and short on opinions...read it and draw your own conclusions. I started it this afternoon and couldn't put it down until I finished it. If you've ever been involved with a fundamental church, this book should have some affect on you - it may upset you, it may sadden you, but it will make you think.
on May 12, 2008
As an independent Baptist myself, I can see how easily the situations mentioned in this book can arise. So many IFB church pastors are completely autonomous...and the members are taught questioning authority is sinful.
If a pastor would read this book with an OPEN MIND, and truly search his heart, I believe the honest and spiritual ones would take steps to insure this would not happen to him or those he shepherds.
The only problem I had with the book is that mention of so many names. Perhaps that is because I knew and looked up to so many of them, and it broke my heart.
on October 21, 2013
I have known Jeri since the days of the FFF. My respect for her back then has grown into a great admiration for her brilliance, insight, and courage after having read this book. Jeri not only has the Fundamentalist abusers figured out in microscopic and crisp detail, but succeeds brilliantly in assessing the proper expression and amount of moral blame due upon the "good churches and pastors" --- those who have sat silently while the thousands of innocent child victims twisted in the wind after enduring the kind of abuse that all but rivals the Jesuit Inquisitors of an earlier era. These are the "men" who attended the conferences every year hosted by Fundamentalist leaders like Clarence Sexton who had no qualms against rubbing elbows with convicted child rapists, all the while bankrolled by the "good churches."
I was one of these deluded members staunchly supporting my pastor, Jack Hyles for the seven years it took me to graduate from Hyles-Anderson College and Seminary in the 1980's. If anyone had done more to lift the impenetrable curtains behind which these impostors delineate the precepts of what the author has SO ingeniously and accurately termed, "Schizophrenic Christianity," I don't know who it could be, with the probable exception of Voyle Glover
(author of "Fundamental Seduction").
This is not an "attack" book, as some of the Fundamentalist dimwits incapable of mounting a reasoned or credible defense will always allege. This book
stands on its own two feet. It cannot be assailed head on on a biblical or rational basis, but only through the traditional cultic tactics of labeling, ad hominem attacks, and the religious politics of personal degradation. Happily, there could never be a more convincing sign of an argument bankrupt of moral
or intellectual integrity than this transparent and vapid tactic.
My eyebrows did go up at reading of the author's view of the local church, but as in the rest of the book, the case made is anything but personal and fanciful, so much so that I have every intention of carefully rethinking my doctrine on that subject in the days to come. Facts are facts.
You may, as I will be doing, want to buy multiple copies of this to place before people you know in these toxic churches, even "the good ones." My only regret is that I can only give this book five stars. It deserves TEN!
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D (author of "Profaned Pulpit---The Jack Schaap Story")
on May 19, 2008
I had already read Voyle Glover's "Fundamental Seduction", Vic Nischik's "The Wizard of God", and Robert Sumner's article (including rebuttals) on Jack Hyles before reading this new book from Jeri Massi. I consider myself reasonably familiar with American Fundamentalism, having spent 11 years (1977 - 1988) immersed in that system, which included three years at a fundamentalist Bible college.
Nevertheless, Jeri Massi provided plenty of new, disturbing, and well-documented material on the abuses of Baptist Fundamentalism. One of the strengths of her book is the fact that she names guilty individuals. This is important, as too many well-meaning leaders are unwilling to warn the people of God about wolves in sheeps clothing. It doesn't do much good to point out false doctrine and practice if specific individuals who are guilty of propagating and practicing the falsehoods are not named.
Readers who do not have a background in fundamentalism may want to begin at Chapter 4 before returning to the beginning of the book. Jeri provides an excellent overview of the roots of American Fundamentalism, and how it developed into the unbiblical system it is today. The term "fuhrer principle" is not used in the book, but that is really how the abusive IFB churches and Bible colleges operate - a dynamic individual with drive and charisma is treated as infallible, and woe be to anyone who questions him.
This book is a sad commentary on the warped and Biblically ignorant mindset of fundamentalist leaders who refuse to deal with gross sin in the camp. I've been watching politicians and Baptist preachers for 30 years, and a pretty good rule of thumb is that those who yell the loudest about someone else's sin are usually those who have the most to hide.
Highly recommended, especially for young people (teens and young adults) in Christian schools who need to be alerted. There are people more dangerous than an unbelieving professor at a state university, and Jeri Massi's book goes a long way toward lifting the veil of secrecy that has too long been allowed to lie over American Fundamentalism.
on October 14, 2012
First, the negative: Jeri Massi's indictment of Christian fundamentalism as schizophrenic because of its emphasis on "purity"--in outward appearance, in abstention from certain activities, and in separation from others who don't conform to their standards--while allowing, ignoring, and even defending the most shocking forms of genuine impurity in their midst; even though her indictment is in my opinion very much on target, tends to be more pessimistic in its outlook than I would want to be. I have hope that at least some of fundamentalism, in this regard, is redeemable.
Also, whenever a book of this nature names names, an update becomes necessary fairly often, as soon as new information comes to light. Over four years have passed since the book was written, and the author is aware of new information, both positive and negative, about several people she has named in the book, and she is aware of the need for an update. For this reason, until the update is forthcoming (at which point I would edit this review), I would issue a caution when drawing conclusions about some of the non-criminals she mentions in the book.
Now, the positive: Honestly, there is so much. I starred the book throughout, as she hit her target again and again and again.
First, she pinpoints the nature of the issues--the very serious, glaring impurities within Christian fundamentalism, focusing primarily on the cover-ups of monstrous sins of child molestation and even incest (this book is not for the faint of heart). She acknowledges that there are many good people within Christian fundamentalism, but, "No matter how good the good Fundamentalist churches are, they will preach against the sins of liberal churches and ignore the exact same sins in Christian Fundamentalism." I have personally experienced this shocking phenomenon again and again in Christian fundamentalism, as sexual sins of the most monstrous variety are ignored, belittled, and deliberately covered over. She describes the fundamentalist pastor of sociopathic tendencies--doing only what works to advance his own cause with no concern about the ramifications for those around him, essentially lacking any modicum of empathy--and then says, "There are good Fundamentalist pastors who don't like this sociopathic counterfeit, but by the very structure of Fundamentalism [which she describes], they are unable to effectively stop the counterfeit or expel it." Again, this is a reality that I am painfully aware of. She explains how the devaluation of women--which many people I know have experienced first-hand in fundamentalism--is just one of the attributes of the movement that contribute to the minimizing of crimes such as pastors French-kissing little girls.
But in counterbalance to this terrible exposé, Jeri Massi goes to great lengths to explain the true gospel, which so much of fundamentalism misses, the true nature of salvation, not just our in-a-moment salvation, but our moment-by-moment salvation--our sanctification--which is not through works of how we look or what we do or who we separate from, but is through faith in Jesus Christ. "Fundamentalism itself, which is extremely pietistic [devotional in nature], neglects the vital role of faith in Sanctification. Christian Fundamentalism usually teaches that we are sanctified by what we do, how we look, where we go, etc. Yes, faith is in there somewhere in their paradigm of Sanctification, but many, many Fundamentalists do not regard faith as the means of Sanctification. They go right to works, and they even have a list of the works they expect to see in righteous people." These are the very thoughts I've written about many times, so of course they strongly resonated with me. After all, as Galatians explains so clearly, when the emphasis is on the self-effort *works* of the flesh, the inevitable result will be the most scandalous of the *sins* of the flesh. (See the review on The wind of the Spirit in personal and corporate revival for more about this vital truth.)
Fundamentalism is being torn apart by a desire to be "pure," as they define it, while missing the true purity of heart brought only by the redeeming work accomplished by the moment-by-moment faith in our powerful Savior, Jesus Christ. I personally know of a highly respected fundamentalist pastor who allowed a convicted child rapist to hold children's Bible clubs in his home, while at the same time preaching in his church and teaching in a respected seminary about "purity" and "separation" and "holiness." How do we explain such schizophrenia?
Is there hope for people like this? From the tone of the book, Jeri Massi might say no. I hope otherwise. But with that caution, I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand a crucial aspect of the world of Christian fundamentalism.
on May 19, 2008
"This book decries the increasing incidents of gross sexual abuses in the IFB denomination, and their failure to address them lawfully or biblically by simply not reporting sexual offenders, not rebuking them, and even sending them off to unsuspecting fellowship churches with recommendations! Such behavior truly warrants the term "Schizophrenic Christianity."
The author gives her personal background in IFBdom, which includes her bus ministry conversion, discipleship course, Christian school and college education. Many of us can identify with her, and share her perceptions of Church in the 70's. Our teachers and pastors were admirable and virtuous. For the most part, we were perfectly safe in their care. But apparently, some were not so fortunate.
Jeri Massi explains that a sect began to flourish within our ranks without challenge. This sect was radical, and proud of it. It became a virtue just to be controversial, and no one would question them, since the "independent" in IFB typically means "mind your own business". They taught "decisions" rather than repentance, absolute pastoral authority, and standards for holiness. This fostered haughtiness, pride, and a dearth of Christian charity which was manifested in their neglect of victims.
The author shows that the atmosphere of an autonomous church, combined with the teaching of blind loyalty to one man, is the perfect situation for a sociopathic personality to abuse unsuspecting victims.
Schizophrenic Christianity is an important book that will warn parents to be wary, pastors to be wise, and elders to take their responsibilities seriously."
on May 6, 2008
This is a highly needed expose in the unaccountable world of Baptist Fundamentalism. Pastors in this segment of Christian Evangelicalism are powers unto themselves in some respects and totally unaccountable to anyone. And you know that old saying about power, "Power corrupts, and absolute power, well... it absolutely corrupts."